Note: This story contains a major spoiler for Game of Thrones season 8, episode 3’s Battle of Winterfell…
Lyanna Mormont didn’t survive the brutal Battle of Winterfell. The young Lady of Bear Island’s story came to an end in Sunday night’s Game of Thrones bloodbath amid a stunning act of heroism: Standing up to, and actually defeating, a zombie giant — the smallest fighter in Winterfell taking down the Night King’s biggest soldier — as she was brutally crushed in his fist. Lyanna was one of several major characters that lost their lives amid the climactic struggle that saved Westeros from an endless night.
The fearless fan favorite, played by actress Bella Ramsey, was actually in Game of Thrones for far longer than anybody expected — including the show’s producers. Creators David Benioff and Dan Weiss initially wrote just a single scene for Lyanna Mormont in season 6. Lyanna was left in charge of her family’s stronghold after the death of her mother and smartly grilled a taken-aback Jon Snow and Sansa Stark. Yet Ramsey proved such a scene stealer that the showrunners kept trying to find more opportunities to get her into the story. “Lyanna Mormont was just supposed to be in one scene, but Bella is such an incredible actress that we kept bringing her back because we wanted more Bella,” Benioff says.
EW spoke to the 16-year-old Ramsey on the Game of Thrones set last spring just after she shot her funeral pyre scene glimpsed in the preview for next week’s fourth episode.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What was your audition process like?
BELLA RAMSEY: Originally I did an audition for The BFG. That was my first audition for [casting director Nina Gold and I wasn’t right for that part. And then they asked for me to do an audition for Game of Thrones and then I got it.
Did they have you read something from the show or different?
It was something from the show, just slightly different.
Dan and David told me they originally only thought of you for only one scene?
Yeah, it was originally gonna just be one bit.
And they kept writing more for you. Fans love your character. What’s all the attention been like for you?
I didn’t think it was going to be anything. I just thought that I turned up and did it. When [the fan reaction] kicked up it was mad. I didn’t expect it.
How did your friends react?
They thought it was pretty cool. It was just kind-of sudden. I was filming The Worst Witch when it came out. It was a bit crazy really.
What did you think of your scripts for this season?
I was really excited and looking forward to it. I wanted to either end up on the Iron Throne or have a really good death. So I’m happy.
What does Lyanna think of Daenerys?
She’s a bit wary of her. Suspicious and not sure what to make of her.
How was shooting your fighting scenes?
My only real bit of fighting is just stabbing. Everything feels real when you’re doing it here because of the atmosphere. It was good and intense with wind and fake snow. It definitely made it easy to act.
Did director Miguel Sapochnik give you any special direction?
There was one thing he said to me that I don’t think I’ll ever forget. I wasn’t sure if she would be really scared or just a slight bit of scared. We tried it several ways. He said, “It’s like someone removed her fear gene.” And that was just … yeah, that was a really great bit of direction.
Were you disappointed Lyanna’s story didn’t go further?
Her story maybe had the potential to grow but she was going to go at some point because everyone does and this way she went was the best way she could have.
You later have to play dead…
Yeah, it didn’t bother me at all. I’ve done a little bit of dead acting before and it’s harder than it looks. You would think it would be dead easy — ah, that was a pun! — but you still have to act like you’re dead because naturally you move. You have to concentrate to be completely still.
You’ve had so many great lines on the show. Which is your favorite?
“I don’t care if he is a bastard, Ned Stark’s blood runs through his veins!” I love that.
— Maisie Williams, Kit Harington discuss the Winterfell battle’s big Night King twist: ‘I thought it was going to be me!’
— Game of Thrones releases trailer for season 8’s mysterious episode 4
— Our deep-dive recap for “The Long Night”
More “The Long Night” coverage to come Monday and Tuesday…